Bartlett, F. (1972). The experimental study of skill. In R. N. Singer (Ed.), Readings in motor learning (pp. 12-19). Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.

"Bodily skill consists essentially of a sequence, very often a repeated sequence, or cycle, of movements, in which each item grows out of preceding and leads to succeeding movements. When we take the item, or even a group of items out of the sequence and measure it by itself we can get very misleading ideas about its character and properties within the skill" (p. 15).

"Notable irregularities in a pattern of control movements are the surest evidence of awkwardness in skill, and are usually the first sign of any break up of skill as a result of unsatisfactory working conditions " (p. 16).

Ceiling or tolerance limits raise a number of theoretical problems. Any external variations in performance conditions (e.g., temperature, speed, load) can cause skill to be modified. If those changes remain within a restricted range, then performance can still persist. However, outside of that tolerable range of variations, even by a small amount, marked changes in performance occur immediately. There is no known permanent gain that can be derived from practicing outside these limits. Once the tolerance limits are reached for any determining characteristic or conditions of the skill, nothing in the way of permanent gain can be produced. Performance may be attempted in spurts, but at such a cost, that it will exist for only a short duration. Performing outside of tolerable variations is particularly wasteful and counter-productive. It is known that a wide range of skills begin to deteriorate at an effective temperature of 83-88 degrees F (28-31 degrees C).

"One of the most extraordinary characters of human skill is its capacity to get narrowly tied up with the particular conditions under which it is learned" (p. 17). Learned motor skills are rarely transferable. The human organism is a discriminator not a generalizing agent.

Four features concerning the transfer of skill (p. 18).

  1. The equipment and method of teaching must be designed rather to show what the skill is required to effect than how the effect is produced. An outcome focus will allow individual variability to be accommodated in the skill elements, that is, each individual will display their own "style" while accommodating the general principles of the technique.
  2. Generally, there is more transfer from the relatively difficult (complex) to the relatively easy (simple) rather than the other way round. Training should not normally begin with lines of least resistance.
  3. In machine directed skills (e.g., rowing, archery, kayaking) the greatest difficulties in transfer all have to do with time and directional relations. While design must preserve consistency, because complete uniformity cannot be achieved, training must go as far as it can to prepare learners at an early stage for variability.
  4. Efficient learning and the normal range of exercise are largely functions of aging. It must not be asserted that those methods which are best for young people will also be best for people who are well into adulthood.

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